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Belladonna

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Belladonna

“Come on, Hermione, everyone is getting one! It will be like a … badge of honour,” Ginny said pleadingly, looking at Hermione with big brown puppy eyes across the dinner table at Grimmauld Place.

“I know, but do I really want a badge of honour permanently attached to my skin?” Hermione asked dryly.

“You can get a small one!” Ginny nagged. “Mine will just be a small squirrel holding a heart. It will be on my hip, so I can hide it with clothes. Your tattoo could be even smaller. Chinese characters are very popular these days. You can get one of those that stand for ‘courage’ or ‘love’ or … I don’t know, ‘books’?”

Hermione snorted, but the idea was rather tempting. Everyone was getting a tattoo in remembrance of the war. Ron and George would simply go with Fred’s name on their arm. Harry still hadn’t decided, but he had some different ideas he would show the tattoo artist this afternoon. The only reason Hermione was hesitating was because she knew her parents would disapprove, and she didn’t really want to make them even more upset.

Once the war was over, Hermione had gone to Australia to restore her parent’s memories. They had been terribly angry at her for making them forget about her, and Hermione was afraid their relationship would never be the same again. The only progress they had made for the past two months was managing to talk without shouting at each other. It was exhausting, and Hermione often took her refuge at Grimmauld Place where Harry, Ron, and Ginny lived. She and Ginny would be going back to Hogwarts in a couple of weeks, much to her parent’s displeasure. Since Hermione was of age in both the Wizarding and Muggle world, though, they couldn’t do anything to stop her, and just asked that she would continue to live with them until school started again.

“Have you managed to convince Hermione yet?” Ron asked, entering the kitchen with Harry in tow.

“I think I’m getting to her,” Ginny replied, grinning at her brother. “She hasn’t said no at least.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “I haven’t said yes, either.”

“But you’ll follow us to the tattoo artist?” Ron said, sounding hopeful.

Hermione silently groaned. Why did Ron have to look at her like that? She had made it perfectly clear that she didn’t like him that way.

At the final battle, they had kissed, and later, had sex. They had both been very sad and in need of comfort, and after a bit too much to drink, they had fallen into bed together. But it had been very awkward, and once they had done it, Hermione realised she didn’t feel that strongly for him. There had just been this sexual tension between them; she had been curious about being with him. Once they had done that, the curiosity was sated, and Hermione realised that she wasn’t that attracted to him. Therefore, she had ended it as fast as she could.

Hopefully, they could somehow go back to just being friends again. So maybe it would be for the best if she actually did spend time with him and show that she was just interested in him as a friend?

“Fine,” she finally said. “I’ll follow you to the tattoo artist.”

Ginny let out a squeal and jumped up, hugging her.

“As support! I’m not promising I’ll get one!” Hermione quickly added.

“Oh, yeah, I know,” Ginny said, grinning. “But once you see how a tattoo artist in the Wizarding world works, you’ll probably change your mind. It’s wicked cool!”

Later that day, Hermione followed Harry, Ron, George, Ginny, Luna, and Neville down to Diagon Alley. It was always difficult being in public together these days. They were all considered war heroes now, and people stopped to stare and whisper when they passed. Thankfully, no one came up asking for autographs and wondering what the war had been like. Hermione didn’t know how she was supposed to behave when that happened. She didn’t like being reminded of the war all the time, and she really didn’t like talking about it with strangers.

Not far from Gringotts, they turned down an alley where she saw a black sign with golden letters spelling Taurius Tattoo over a shop window. In the window, there were moving pictures of tattooed limbs on display. Hermione was the last to enter the shop and blinked in surprise at how colourful it was. The walls, floor, roof, and furniture were all covered with sketches. At first, she thought it was just pieces of paper covering the whole store, but upon closer inspection, she saw that it was the wallpaper and fabric itself that had the sketches painted into them.

“Welcome!” a short wizard greeted with a big smile. The nametag on his green robe told her it was Mr Taurius himself. “It’s an honour to have you all here. I’ve no other appointments this afternoon, so we have the rest of the day for you all.”

Behind him stood two other artists, their smiles just as big as the shopkeepers. No doubt they were thinking about all of the new customers they would get after having the Chosen One and all his helpers there. Hermione rolled her eyes.

Ginny, Ron, and George were the first to get their tattoos. They were taken into the back room while the rest were asked to make themselves comfortable. Various beverages and biscuits had been served next to the big plush couches. Harry, Luna, and Neville helped themselves while Hermione went to inspect the sketches. She had never been able to draw, and was always fascinated to see what other people could create with just pen and paper. Some of the sketches were true masterpieces; very beautiful and realistic. Others were plain weird. Like the hand with different trees instead of fingers.

Just as Ginny had said, Chinese characters seemed to be popular. There were at least over a hundred different combinations painted up on the wall. Hermione looked at them and tried to find a word she would like. It would be fun to get something small. Tattoos could be pretty, and when she was younger she had thought about getting one on her shoulder. But did she really want to start a new fight with her parents?

Reaching the end of the Chinese characters, she saw another mark near the floor. Crouching down to get a closer look, she was surprised to see three runes, entwined in a shape of a flower. If she wasn’t mistaken, the flower was a belladonna and if she translated the runes correctly, it said “remembrance of the dead”. That was awfully fitting. Hermione traced the sketch with her fingertips. There was something that felt … right about the picture. Like it spoke directly to her.

“What’ve you got there, Hermione?” Harry asked, coming up behind her.

“I’m not sure,” Hermione replied slowly. “Do you see how the runes are entwined with the petals?”

“Oh yeah, now when I’m closer. From afar it just looked like a flower. It’s very pretty. What does it say?”

“This one means ‘the dead’,” she said, pointing at the one to the right. “And I think this one is meant to be ‘remembrance’, but it can have different interpretations in different contexts.”

“And the one in the middle?”

“It also varies. The most common is ‘flight’, I think, but since that doesn’t really make sense here, I guess it’s just related to death being a journey or something like that. So maybe the real translation is ‘remembrance of those who are on the journey of death’,” Hermione explained. “Quite fitting, really.”

Harry’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. It rarely did. It had just been a little over two months since the war ended, and even though life had got back some of its usual routine, it hadn’t got back its joy. Not really. Everyone was still haunted by the memories of war. Getting this tattoo was another way for them to cope. A way to show the world, and themselves, that they would never forget what had happened. It was a way of making their mental scars visible.

“I think I’ll get it,” Hermione finally said. The sketch was beautiful, after all. Another reason why she hadn’t been sure was because she didn’t know what to get. But this one spoke to her; it was the one.

Harry squeezed her shoulder. “You can go next, then. I still haven’t decided what I’m getting.”

“What about the lion?” Hermione asked. “The picture Ginny showed me was very cool.”

Harry grimaced. “I don’t know. It feels a bit like … bragging.”

Hermione chuckled. “Then take the stag.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

They went back to the lounging area and sat down to wait. Hermione mostly listened to the others talk, her mind was still on the tattoo she was getting. Where would be the best way to put it? She didn’t want to tell her parents, so it had to be someplace usually hidden by clothes. Making sure to keep a Concealing Charm on all the time was just too much work.

She still wasn’t sure when George came out, showing off his new tattoo on his arm. He looked as if he had cried, but now his mouth was set in a serious gesture.

“Who wants to go next?” the man who had tattooed George asked. His nametag told her that his name was Carson. He looked to be in his sixties and Hermione was quite surprised to find someone so old doing a job like this.

“Hermione has picked out a tattoo from the wall,” Harry said.

“Which one?” Carson asked, looking mildly curious.

Hermione showed him the Belladonna. “Who drew this?”

The old man scratched his chin. “I have no idea. I don’t recognise the design, so it’s not one of our usual artists. We get contributions for customers sometimes. They come in with different drawings, not sure which to use, and if they are good enough, we ask to put them on the wall.”

“Has anyone else had this one done before?” Hermione asked, worried. She didn’t know why she was worried, but somehow, it didn’t feel right that anyone else had got her tattoo.

“Not for the forty years I’ve worked here,” Carson answered honestly. “Do you wish to have it?”

Hermione nodded.

“Then come with me,” Carson asked and lead her to one of the back rooms.

In comparison to the waiting area, this room seemed completely sterile. It was just two metal chairs and a table with equipment.

“Where do you wish to get the tattoo?” Carson asked.

“I’m not sure,” Hermione confessed. “I want it somewhere where I can conceal it with clothes if I have to, but still show it off at other times.”

“How about the shoulder? I can shape the flower to go with the curves of the shoulder blade,” Carson suggested.

“What would that look like?” Hermione asked, starting to feel a knot of anticipation in her belly.

“I will paint it up for you in normal paint first,” Carson said. “Then can you can see it for yourself.”

Hermione removed her shirt and pulled her bra stripe down on her left side. She kept her hair up as he painted, trying to stay still as the brush tickled her. After about fifteen minutes, he told her to take a look, holding up a mirror for her.

Hermione felt a shiver go through her as she saw the picture, the feeling of rightness increasing. Normally, she didn’t believe in fate, but somehow, she just knew this tattoo was meant for her. The purple petals were on her shoulder blade, while the dark green stalk was twisted just underneath it. When she moved her arm, it looked as if the three green leafs were dancing in the wind.

“It looks great,” Hermione said softly. She could just barely make out the dark runes in the petals. The way they were painted made them look more like shadows on the flower than actual runes.

“Are you certain you want it?” Carson asked once last time.

“Yes,” Hermione replied, truthfully. She couldn’t explain it, not even for herself, but there was a longing in her chest. A promise that everything would be better if she just got the tattoo.

“Then I’ll start,” Carson said and lead her back to the chair. “It will not take as long or be as painful as when Muggles do it. Magic is used to infuse it into your skin in just one stamp. Try to keep as still as possible.”

“Okay,” Hermione said, sitting down as comfortably as she could and closed her eyes, bracing herself.

She let out a gasp mixed with surprise and pain when he cast the tattooing spell. It felt like someone had just stuck her with a thousand needles all at once. It took all her willpower not to jump up and hex him. Just a second later, her shoulder turned hot, as if it were burning. She winced, but it wasn’t as though she hadn’t been through worse. This was just uncomfortable, really.

Her shoulder turned cool after just a few more seconds, and all that remained was a soft, tingling sensation. Carson dried the area with a towel, and glancing over her shoulder, she saw that there was blood on it. It seemed like it wasn’t that different from Muggle tattooing after all.

“Does your shoulder feel alright?” Carson asked. “Can you move it?”

Hermione rolled her shoulder, suspicious. “Was there a risk that I wouldn’t be able to?”

“No, but sometimes there is stiffness in it, lasting for a day or so. It’s not dangerous.”

“It feels fine,” Hermione answered. “What does it look like?”

He conjured up the mirror again and Hermione stared at tattoo. It looked so alive, as if she should be able to sniff the fragrant. The tingle was still there, pleasant, really.

For the first time in Merlin knew how long, Hermione felt a blanket of calmness envelope her. This was a step in the right direction. The people who had died would always be there, but she could move on. She could put it behind her, no pun intended. This was the start of something new.

SS


Hermione was standing at some sort of party. She didn’t know anyone there, and yet, she didn’t feel worried or out of place. Soft music was playing to a slow beat and she swayed to it where she was standing. Her long skirt brushed against her legs. She felt pretty in it, even though she wasn’t sure what it looked like. All she could see was dark fabric, and she knew her back was bare, showing off her tattoo.

Laughter was heard at the other end of the room. She could see Harry dancing with Ron, both dressed in wizarding robes. Next to them, some other members of the Weasley family were standing, but she only really noticed one of them. Charlie.

He was the hottest member of the Weasley clan by far, but she had only ever appreciated him from afar. Charlie hardly ever noticed her, and Ron would have been devastated if she started showing any interest in him, so he was more like eye-candy for her. Now, however, Charlie was eyeing her from across the room, and Hermione no longer cared for what Ron may feel. Charlie’s brown eyes met hers, and she could see the heat in them. She didn’t bother trying to hide the way she ate him up with her gaze. Unlike everyone else in the room, Charlie wasn’t wearing any formal robes. In fact, he wasn’t wearing much of anything.

Hermione’s eyes travelled down the broad, muscular chest, looking smooth and hairless. What she wouldn’t give to be wrapped inside those strong arms, getting to feel his warm skin against her naked—

So you have a thing for redheads.” The voice was right next to her ear, but before she could turn around to see who was talking, a hand had come up to her jaw, holding her head still. “It’s not time for that yet, my sweet.”

The dark voice sent tremors down her spine, making her knees weak. Suddenly, Charlie had disappeared in the crowd, and all Hermione was aware of was the man standing behind her. She knew the person had to be male, just from his scent alone. It was hard to explain his smell, it wasn’t any perfume she recognised, but the smell was intoxicating. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.

Isn’t that better?” he whispered, his breath hot against her ear.

The hand that wasn’t holding jaw came up to her shoulder. His fingers slowly caressed the skin around the tattoo. Hermione shuddered, goosebumps appearing all over her body. When his fingers finally moved onto the tattoo, she let out a moan of pleasure. It felt as if the tattoo had come to life and was pulsating with joy at touch of the mysterious man behind her.

I would never have dreamed that you would be the one to pick it, Hermione Granger,” the man continued. “To be so young and have so much raw power inside you…”

He pressed his nose against her neck and she heard and felt him inhale deeply. Hermione tilted her head even more, allowing him better access. He pressed a soft kiss against her skin before withdrawing just a little.

All these moral rules others have forced on you,” he said, his voice almost bitter. “You have tried so hard to follow them. Denied yourself things you really want, because that’s what you have been taught. Well, no more. I’ll help you let go. It’s not like I have anything better to do. Not yet, at least.”

His left hand stopped stroking the tattoo and moved down and around her waist, pulling her straight against his hard, lean body. She purred, pressing herself against him.

Yeeees,” he man groaned. “Give in to me. I’ll help you reach your full potential, Herm—”

“Hermione! Will you let me in? We are going to be late!” Ginny’s voice came muffled from outside the door.

Hermione groaned. It felt as if she had only got an hour of sleep. What was Ginny doing here at – Hermione looked at the clock on her nightstand – eight thirty?

Eight thirty!

Hermione immediately flew from the bed. First day back to school, and she had overslept? How could that be? She never overslept!

“Hermione, are you even in there?” Ginny asked, banging on the door.

“Just a minute!” Hermione called back and quickly got out of her night gown and into her school robes. She would have liked a shower – for some reason, she was feeling very sweaty and hot – but she didn’t have time for that now.

She grabbed her school bag and opened the door for Ginny. The other girl frowned when she saw her.

“Did I wake you?” Ginny asked in disbelief.

Hermione grimaced. “Yes. Come on, or we are going to be late for the first class. What is it?”

“History of Magic. They are making it mandatory again, and have hired a new teacher. Since they don’t want the war to happen again, they want to remind us of it,” Ginny said with a snort as they began walking down the corridor. “As if we could forget it.”

Hermione snorted as well. “Right. I think McGonagall mentioned something about that. Was the new teacher introduced last night?”

“Yeah, Professor Heisting. Where were you last night, by the way?”

“Just getting briefed about my new position in school by Professor Flitwick. They don’t seem to think I need to go the whole year to take my N.E.W.T’s, so we made another arrangement. I’ll take classes with the seventh years this semester, but then I’m taking the tests this winter instead of waiting for the summer. And since I’m so much older than everyone else, and will be out here soon, I got my own room, and don’t have to care as much about curfew. I can even leave Hogwarts on the weekend if I’d like,” Hermione explained. Being a war heroine sometimes had its perks.

“Cool. Oh, we’re here,” Ginny said, opening the door to the classroom.

The new professor greeted the class after everyone had taken their seats. Hermione did like that they had a new professor in History of Magic, and one who seemed to know what she was doing at that. Hermione had been very disappointed when she first got to the school. No subject should be treated so lightly, and History of Magic had seemed so interesting when she read about it. But no one else had ever complained, so Hermione had started to just rely on her books for learning.

Despite that, Hermione found herself zoning out on Professor Heisting’s lecture on the background of the recent wars. She tried to recall the dream, but all she remembered was that it had been quite pleasant. A feeling of being desired and empowered.

“… power corruption has always happened, and will always happen. For He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, his hunger for power seemed to have been a strong motivator. But even though he was by far one of the cruellest, he is just the last in a long line of powerful wizards and witches over the centuries who have let power corrupt them. They don’t seem to be able to get enough, and this leads to more and more reckless behaviour,” Professor Heisting lectured.

Well, that made sense. Voldemort really had been very reckless at the end, and from what she had read, so had Grindelwald. Everyone had known it was stupid of him to agree to a duel with Dumbledore, but he had been convinced that he was the most powerful.

And yet … what was too much power? Harry had power, both magically and socially. Everyone looked up at him, and if he wanted too, he could easily become Minister for Magic, or the head of the Auror Division after he had the appropriate training. He would no doubt make a much better one than the previous three. Yet he had said that he didn’t want that. Was he afraid the power would go to his head and corrupt him?

In her own private thoughts, she found that annoying. Harry always needed a lot of convincing. He didn’t believe in his own abilities. He had made a great Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in their fifth year, but she had had to nag forever until he agreed to do it. Now that he had defeated Voldemort, he should take the opportunity to make the world an even better place. Voldemort hadn’t been the root of all injustice in society, he had just used it to his own advantage.

If she had the power Harry got, she would work hard to make the world better. End the slavery of House-Elves, help Muggle-borns find their place in the new world, support their parents. Power was not always bad. You just had to be careful, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying to reach your full potential.

Hermione shivered. The best thing with the war being over was that she could reach her full potential. She had only ever been known as Harry’s clever helper, and while she had seen the importance of this, it was now time to move on. Find her own place and power.

“So you decided to celebrate that freedom with staying up all night?” Ginny asked, teasing as they left the classroom.

“What?” Hermione asked, confused.

“Well, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought you were Harry, dozing off to Binns. Do you find the new teacher boring?”

Hermione grimaced. “No, she seemed alright. I’m just so tired.”

Ginny gave her a look of sympathy. “Nightmares?”

“I don’t remember,” Hermione answered slowly, frowning. “I don’t think so. I think I remember dancing.”

“That sounds more pleasant at least,” Ginny said with a grin. “Was there someone special there?”

Hermione tried to remember, but it was all just a blur. She sighed. “I really can’t remember.”

“As long as it isn’t nightmares, at least,” Ginny said in tone that was way too chipper.

Hermione understood. They all had nightmares about the war. It had changed their lives forever. Perhaps that’s why she was so tired? She had read about post-traumatic stress and other things people who had been in war could get. If only she could find a way to deal with her nightmares…

SS


She was being tortured by Bellatrix again. Another nightmare. She cried and screamed in pain, just wishing for it to end. Why did she have to be haunted by this? No, she wouldn’t stand for it. The pain had to stop.

Suddenly, she was running down a long corridor. People were running after her. She had to hide. If they got her, they would torture her again. She didn’t want to get tortured.

The corridor didn’t seem to end, though, and she knew it was useless to try the doors. They were always locked. Somehow, she would have to run faster so she would reach the end of the gloomy corridor before they caught her. If she reached the end, she would wake up. She always did. Somewhere, deep down, she knew this was just a dream and the moment she reached the end, she would wake up, sweating and shivering after the dream. But that didn’t help her now. She was just running.

A door to her left opened. Before she had time to react, an arm reached out and dragged her inside a completely dark room. Two arms captured her, pressing her against a long, lean body. Outside, she heard people stopping and beginning to bang at the door. She suppressed a sob. How long would it take before they got in?

They won’t come in yet.” She had heard that soft deep voice before, but she couldn’t remember where.

Who are you?” she asked, her voice muffled against his robe.

It’s not time for introductions yet, I’m afraid,” he answered, his hand coming up, stroking her hair. “You are being chased. Why?”

They want to hurt me for information,” Hermione said truthfully. There was no reason to lie in a dream.

What sort of information?” His hand sneaked under hair and started to caress her neck.

About what we did against Voldemort,” she said, shuddering at his touch.

What did you do?” he asked softly.

Destroyed his Horcruxes,” Hermione whispered.

His grip of her neck tightened, but only for a short moment, before his hand relaxed, and he continued to stroke her neck. “Yes. I knew that…” he trailed off.

Hermione wanted to ask what he meant, but the banging against the door turned more violent and she winced. She didn’t want them to take her again.

Why don’t you fight them?” he asked, pulling on her hair, forcing her head backwards.

She couldn’t see him in the dark, but she felt his breath coming against her face. He smelled like coffee.

I…” She trailed off, not sure what to say.

You are a witch, are you not?” His other hand moved over her arm, coming to rest on her clasped hand. That was when she realised she was holding her wand.

Oh,” she said, feeling foolish.

Quickly, he spun her around so she was facing the door.

Now, Granger, show me what youve got,” he said against her ear, his voice full of mirth.

The door broke open and she saw people standing behind it. Bellatrix Lestrange, Peter Pettigrew, the Malfoys, and some other faceless Death Eaters. But now, she wasn’t scared. She had her wand. It was time to show them what a real witch could do.

Sectumsempra!” she cried, slashing her wand towards them.

She didn’t know who she hit, she didn’t stop to look. Instead, she cast curse after curse at the Death Eaters, each turning darker than the last. Once the last body had fallen, she woke up.

Hermione smiled as she opened her eyes, feeling relieved. Finally, she had got payback for what they had done to her. She tried to recall every detail that had happened in the dream, but it was already starting to fade. One thing stood clear in her mind, though, and that was the look on Bellatrix Lestrange’s face when Hermione had slashed her open.

Even though she knew it hadn’t been for real, and that it never could be since Lestrange was dead, Hermione felt satisfied. She had showed that horrible woman that she wasn’t one to be tortured.

Yawning, she rolled out of bed. If she let herself lie back in bed, she would just fall asleep again. Lately, it didn’t seem to matter how many hours of sleep she got, she was always tired. Thank Merlin for Pepper-up Potions. She had no idea how she would have been able to handle the first week in school without them.

It wasn’t the studying that was taxing; no, she was fairly sure she had that under control; it was being at Hogwarts in the first place. Wherever she went, she was reminded about the war and the people who had died. Even though the castle had been rebuilt, and there was no evidence of the war anywhere, she could still see the bodies before her inner eye.

Yet, it didn’t disturb her as much now as it had on the first day, Hermione reflected, as she walked down to the Great Hall. She was still saddened by it, but a part of her was coldly reminding her to get over it and move on with her life. It was good advice, and Hermione tried to follow it. She was too tired to become emotional anyway.

“I thought you were going to miss breakfast again,” Ginny greeted her in a low voice as Hermione sat down next to her.

“Well, I didn’t,” Hermione muttered back, helping herself to eggs and toast.

“But you still look like the walking dead. Why haven’t you been to Madam Pomfrey?” Ginny asked, clearly worried about her friend.

Hermione sighed. “I’m just tired, Ginny, it’s nothing medical.”

“Being tired for this long isn’t normal, Hermione,” Ginny exclaimed worriedly. “Better safe than sorry. Our second period is free, I’m taking you to the infirmary then.”

“Channelling your mother, are you?” Hermione asked, both annoyed and amused with her friend.

Ginny’s eyes narrowed. “I will take you there, Hermione, even if I have to drag you there.”

Hermione raised her hands up in defeat. “Fine, fine. I’ll come.”

“Good. I’ll meet you outside your classroom when the lesson is over.”

Finishing their breakfasts, the two friends left the Great Hall and went their separate ways. Ginny was having a free period and would study in the library while Hermione had a lesson in Ancient Runes.

“Good morning, class,” Professor Babbling said. She was a middle-aged witch who had managed to keep her position as a teacher throughout the war. Hermione’s guess was that it had to do with that no one ever seemed to notice her. She was a small, quiet woman who seemed to live more in her ancient texts than in the current age. The only thing she ever seemed to talk about was runes and their contexts and could thus be regarded to have a somewhat dull personality. She also had high expectation of her students, and therefore, everyone but the most interested had dropped it after their OWL’s.

“Good morning,” the handful of students greeted her.

“As I mentioned last time, we will spend this semester furthering our knowledge in specific areas. Has everyone found an area they wish to study?” she asked.

Everyone nodded.

“Let’s hear it then. Mr Phillips?”

The Ravenclaw seemed pleased to get to talk first. “I wanted to study the Elder Futhark, the ones that involved the sun magic and see how the spells developed in style from the second to the fifth century.”

Hermione mentally cursed. That was the area she had wished to study. The runes she had tattooed onto her shoulder were most likely from that alphabet. She hadn’t thought anyone else would want to go as far back so to the Elder Futhark, since it was easier to come across runes from the later periods.

“Very interesting area, Mr Phillips,” Professor Babbling praised. “Have you already found Professor Clapper’s work on the area? Ah, yes. You’ll do well to look at his footnotes; he leaves out some important things.”

“I’ve already borrowed a few of the books he mentioned,” Phillips replied eagerly. “But I haven’t had time to read them yet.”

Babbling nodded. “Good. Miss Granger?”

Hermione grimaced. “I’m also interested in the Elder Futhark and sun magic, but I hadn’t picked out any books yet…” she trailed off, uncertain what she should do.

Babbling looked thoughtful. “If you want to work with the Elder Furthark, there’s always the death magic to look into … but perhaps that’s not very appropriate at the moment.” It was the first time Hermione had seen Babbling look sheepish.

Hermione, however, was intrigued. “I didn’t think they had death magic in the Elder Furthark?”

“Of course they did. Rituals around death have always existed, and wizards have always had their magical rituals. We haven’t talked much about it in this class, though, because there hasn’t been much research on the subject recently. It became a bit shunned after the forties because Grindelwald had been interested in it. As I’ve told you before, Rune magic is not dark or light in itself, it’s how you use it that matters. Of course, once someone has used something for darkness, people often forget that it doesn’t have to be dark. But in the light of everything that has happened…” Babbling trailed off, making a grimace.

Hermione wasn’t bothered. “But if Grindelwald was interested in it, there have to have been research before that. He was hardly an innovative thinker. Perhaps I could study that?”

Babbling looked pleased. “If you want to, you are more than welcome, Miss Granger. I have a few books in my private library you could borrow to get an impression of the subject. If you are still interested next week, you can begin working then. I’ll give you the whole semester to work on this project.”

Excited about her new area of research, Hermione opened her book on Elder Furthark to see if there was any references there she could use. She always loved learning about new things. Alas, every other class she had was just going over things she already knew, or knew about. The things she hadn’t found out during her fifth or sixth year, she had learnt during the war. It was always good with repetition, but Hermione loved to enrich her studies. However, it didn’t give her the same sense of excitement as uncovering something that was brand new to her. She hadn’t heard about runic death magic before.

Just before class was over, Babbling handed her three books from her personal library. Hermione couldn’t resist the temptation of opening one of them right away as she left the classroom. Therefore, she didn’t see Ginny until her friend was waving her hand over the text.

“Oh, right,” Hermione sighed, remembering her promise from before.

“That’s right, missy, come with me,” Ginny said, her tone bossy as she hooked her arm around Hermione’s. “So, I take it the class was interesting?”

As vengeance for dragging her to the infirmary, Hermione dove into a long explanation about what she was studying. Just like her brother and boyfriend, Ginny didn’t know how to appreciate school properly. Hermione had practically given up on ever finding someone who loved it as a much as she did.

Ginny seemed more than relieved when they finally reached the Infirmary and Hermione had to stop her lecture to talk to Madam Pomfrey.

“First week into term, Miss Granger,” Pomfrey said with a smile. “Are you trying to break Mr Potter’s record?”

Hermione sighed. “No, I’m not even sure if I need help—”

“Yes you do, Hermione,” Ginny interrupted and then turned to the matron. “Hermione is always tried, but she says she sleeps a lot.”

Hermione felt very silly for being there. She had been through a war without any medical help. Why had she let Ginny talk her into this?

Madam Pomfrey, though, was frowning. “Are you just tired? No other symptoms?”

“Not really,” Hermione replied. At least there was no other student here to see the war heroin complain about sleeping bad. Everyone who had been in the war wasn’t sleeping well, after all.

“Nightmares?”

“Not lately,” Hermione admitted, frowning as she said it. She had had nightmares during the whole summer, but not in the last two weeks. “Actually, they stopped when I started to feel this tired.”

Pomfrey regarded her in silence for a long moment. “I take it you have a free period now?”

Hermione nodded. “I’m free until lunch.”

“I want to do a full diagnostic on you, Miss Granger. It will take some time, though. Miss Weasley, I think you better run along.”

Hermione wanted to argue that she didn’t need a full diagnostic, but Ginny gave her the best Mrs Weasley-look she could muster. Hermione sighed. It wasn’t worth arguing. Once Ginny saw that Hermione was given in, she smiled and left the Infirmary.

Madam Pomfrey led Hermione into a bed behind a screen. “Remove your robe and shoes, Miss Granger.”

“Do you really think a full diagnostic is necessary?” Hermione asked, but nevertheless obeyed the order.

“Minerva and I have talked about doing it to every student, starting with those of you who played an active part in the war,” Pomfrey replied, her voice soft. “Stress can do horrible things to your body, not to mention the Dark Arts. I want to make sure you haven’t caught anything bad.”

Unable to argue against that, Hermione lay down on the bed. At least magical diagnostics weren’t as hard as some Muggle diagnostics. It was just spell work.

The spell had been going for about ten minutes when Pomfrey stopped. “I have to ask you to remove your shirt and turn around, Miss Granger.”

Feeling an ill forewarning, Hermione did as she asked. She heard Pomfrey sigh.

“When did you get this tattoo, Miss Granger?”

“About three weeks ago.”

“And you said you have been feeling tired for about two weeks?”

“Yes,” Hermione answered.

“And you used a magical tattoo artist?”

“Yes, we all went to the same one,” Hermione said, turning around to face Pomfrey again. Could it really be the tattoo making her feel tired?

“It would appear you have a magical infection, Miss Granger. It’s very uncommon, but I’ve read about it happening,” Pomfrey explained, clearly not impressed by the tattoo. “There is not much to do but let your body fight it off.”

“But how can that be?” Hermione asked, putting on her shirt again. “None of the others are tired.”

“As I said, it’s very uncommon and most likely has something to do with your magic and the tattoo artist’s magic being too dissimilar to each other. I’ve read about it, but not seen it before. It does, however, resemble the infection the ones who took the Dark Mark got. But there, I suspect it was the Dark Arts to blame.”

“Well, it isn’t a Dark Mark,” Hermione commented dryly at the ridiculous thought.

“No, I suppose that’s something at least,” Pomfrey said, giving Hermione a small smile.

SS


You must like reading a lot, if you dream about it.”

Hermione sat up straight when she heard his voice behind her. She wanted to turn her head and look at him, but something was stopping her.

You are learning.” His hands came to rest on her shoulders, and started to massage them slowly. “What are you reading about?”

School work,” Hermione answered. “I’ve dreamt about you before.”

You are starting to remember the dreams?” he asked, sounding amused.

Hermione frowned. “No. Yes. I don’t know. It seems clearer here.”

It will become clearer in real life as well. But either way, it’s too late.” His fingers stroked over her tattoo. That was when Hermione realised she was only wearing her underwear. The thought should have alarmed her. Yet, somehow, it didn’t feel like a big deal. Probably because she subconsciously recognised that it was just a dream.

Wait,” she said, suddenly understanding what he had been saying. “What is too late?”

His brushed the straps of her bra down her shoulders. “To stop me. But maybe you don’t want to. You aren’t fighting me now.”

Why should I fight you? You haven’t attacked me.”

I’m undressing you,” he mumbled and just like that, her bra was gone as well. “Most girls would be alarmed if a stranger started to undress them.”

As if she had broken free from a spell, Hermione quickly jumped out of his arms, spinning around. In an instant, she was dressed and held her wand in her hand, but he was no longer sitting there. She only had time to be confused for a moment before he grabbed her from behind.

None of that now,” he scolded. “We were having such a lovely time. But very well, you are not ready for that. It’s fine.”

Let go of me,” Hermione growled and tried to get her arms free, but his grip around her was too tight.

I have no intention of harming you, Hermione,” he replied, his voice serious.

What are your intentions then?” she asked angrily.

Well, this is your dream, why don’t you tell me.” Once again, he sounded playful. “Perhaps you were just on the verge of having an erotic dream, but your inhibitions stopped you?”

Hermione blushed furiously. “Shut up and let go of me.”

Laughing, he eased his grip around her, but didn’t let go completely. “If I hadn’t asked, you would have gone through with it. You know that, don’t you?”

She ignored him. “Why am I even dreaming about you?”

Maybe I’m just your darkest desire coming to life,” he teased. “That side you could never let out because of the war.”

My desires aren’t dark,” Hermione objected.

Oh really?” he asked. “So you were never tempted to try out some of those spells you read from the Dark Arts book you stole from Dumbledore’s office just after he died?”

Her blush increased. “I only read them to find out how to stop Voldemort.”

Yes, you had the best and noblest intention,” he replied haughtily. “But weren’t you wondering why some of those spells were forbidden? Remember, Hermione, I’m inside your brain, you can’t lie to me.”

If you are, they why are you asking in the first place?” she spat.

Just to see in what way you’ll lie to yourself,” he replied in a chipper voice.

I’m not lying to myself! It doesn’t matter what I was wondering at the time, I never used them on other people.”

You never know when you are going to find a spell useful,” he taunted her. It was the same thing she used to say to Harry and Ron when they hadn’t been studying properly.

But I never used them, and now that the war is over, I won’t have to,” Hermione insisted. “And weren’t you supposed to be an erotic dream? Why are you so annoying?”

You just get off on arguing,” he purred into her ear, one of his hands sneaking under her shirt, caressing her stomach.

Hermione felt a shudder go through her, but she was still annoyed. “Only with clever people.”

And you don’t think I’m clever?”

No, just annoying,” she said, even though she wasn’t completely honest. There was something about the way he talked that made him seem quite clever. However, she didn’t want to compliment him.

And yet, I’ve somehow managed to get you out of your clothes again.”

Once again, she was only standing in her underwear. She tried jumping away again, but this time, he held her close. Even though she growled, a part of her liked it. He was just a figment of her imagination, after all, whats the worst that could happen?

He leaned down and kissed where her shoulder and neck met, and she shuddered with pleasure. His right hand made its way down her stomach and then over her knickers. He stroked the fabric as he continued to kiss his way up and down her throat, nibbling the skin softly.

Hermione let out a gasp when she suddenly felt herself fall backwards and land on his lap. He must have conjured an armchair.

Everything turned foggy around her as his left hand started to stroke her breasts, lifting them out of their cups. His right hand was playing with the crotch of her knickers before pushing it aside. He trailed his index finger between her labia and Hermione could hear how wet she was. It had been a long time since she masturbated. Perhaps this was her subconscious telling her she needed to relax more. Well, she didn’t mind.

He found her clit and started to play with it, slowly. Hermione closed her eyes, breathing hard. He moved back down her sex and pushed two fingers inside of her. She purred in pleasure. This was definitely a good dream. Annoying men were only good for one thing. Sometimes, she liked her brain.

He let out a chuckle, but continued to stroke his fingers in and out of her, adding pressure to her clit with his thumb. Her sex began tingling with pleasure, and it spread up into her belly and down her thighs, making her nose twitch. He pressed another kiss against her neck, nibbling ever so softly and pushed a third finger inside her, increasing the speed. Hermione met his movements, the muscles inside her cunt beginning to contract uncontrollably as the orgasm crept up on her.

She cried out as he shoved his fingers as deep inside her as he could, and she came, cramping around his hand. Merlin, she had needed that. At once, she felt so much more relaxed. She collapsed against his chest again, her vision clearing and the library coming back into view. He still had his fingers inside her, and she felt a small shudder of pleasure go through her when he flexed them. But she had got what she wanted and thus, she firmly pushed his hand away, sitting up.

When she tried to rise from his lap, he gripped her hips. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

She could feel his hardness under her arse. “No, I don’t think so. You are my erotic dream after all, which means you are just here for my satisfaction.”

With that, she broke free from his hands and stood up, once again dressed. She wasn’t sure why she was teasing him, but it just felt like the right thing to do. Maybe it was because she knew it was just a dream, thus she could do and say things she would never dare to do in real life. She could be selfish.

She walked over to the table and picked up the top book and pretended to read it, but she could still feel his presence behind her. He didn’t do anything but watch her for almost a minute.

Now isn’t that interesting?” he commented softly.

What is?” she asked, ready to defend herself.

Where did you get that book?”

She looked at the cover, and the sexual tension between them eased. “From my teacher in Ancient runes.”

Of course.” He was silent for a moment. “They mention a Norse myth in that book which Muggles don’t know of.”

How can there be Norse myth Muggles don’t know about?”

He snorted. “Asks the girl who lives a secret life Muggles can’t know about.”

That’s different. Myths are just stories. There are Muggle books about magic, but that doesn’t make them know about us.”

Well, this myth came a bit too close to the truth. Do you want to hear it or not?”

Hermione sighed. “Fine, tell me.”

He came closer behind her again. She didn’t mind having him behind her. It felt right, in some strange way. And in Hermione’s experience, it was no use looking for logic in dreams.

In the same way he had before, he managed to sit behind her and made her lean back against him. This time, she was dressed at least. “Odin and Loki were, as you know, brothers by oath, and both very fond of magic. They were both immortal, as gods are, but not in the way one would imagine gods to be immortal. They had to rely on Idun’s golden apples to keep themselves from ageing. Thus, they now and again talked about death and if there perhaps was a better way to stay immortal and young forever.”

He paused and Hermione thought about all the Norse myths she had heard. The thing about the golden apples sounded familiar, but she didn’t think she had heard anything about the other.

They decided to come up with other magical ways to be immortal. This is where all the magic happens. Some of the spells mentioned in the myth is uncomfortably close to spells we use today. But that’s not the part of the story that is interesting. You see, they tried all sorts of things; splitting their essence, creating potions, amulets, anything you can think of. The problem with all of these things is that they can be broken and thus, they could still die. They needed something that could last forever.”

Hermione felt a shiver of dread go through her.

Loki started to think of different ways. What is it that dies? He saw dead humans walking around every day in Valhalla. The mighty fighters were chosen after death by the Valkyries to feast forever in Odin’s hall. They could still remember their lives. But they were dead. Or rather, their bodies were dead. Thus, Loki thought, why not let the body die and return in another shape?”

Loki knew all about the magic of runes. He practically invented it. Thus, he decided to capture his essence in a secret rune. Do you know how magical portraits are created, Hermione?”

Yes, I read about it in—”

Stupid question, I guess,” he interrupted her teasingly. “Very well. Then you know something about capturing the essence of a person. That’s what Loki did. He scattered his secret rune over the human world Midgård and then sat back and waited. The humans would do the rest of the work for him. Someone was always foolish enough to meddle with things they didn’t understand.”

Why did he need humans?” Hermione wondered.

Because he found a way to be reborn. If the human became close to the rune, physically, he could create a link to them, and wander into them. Like a portrait can walk through paintings other than its own, if they are just connected in some way. Because Loki had always been good at drawing magic from others. With this invention, he could create a new body for himself. Every human possess the power of creating new life, after all.”

So he would force someone to give birth to him?”

He chuckled. “Not quite that simple, no. Loki had no wish to become an infant again. No, this was magical. He would gather magic from his host and then build himself a new body. And if that body got killed as well, he would just have to wait until someone else came along and got close to his rune again.”

Hermione felt cold. There was something there. Something important. She just couldn’t put her finger on it. Why was her mind working so slow in the dream?

Oh, dear, I think someone just overslept again,” he suddenly whispered in her ear.

What are you—”

“HERMIONE!”

She opened her eyes, only to see Ginny staring down at her, looking worried.

“Finally! I’ve tried to wake you for the past five minutes,” Ginny cried. “I don’t know what it is, but something is very wrong with you.”

Hermione groaned and sat up slowly. Her whole head was spinning, she was so tired. “What time is it?”

“Noon! I know it’s Saturday, but since I didn’t see you at breakfast, I became worried and came up to see you. And you look like a walking corpse. Didn’t Pomfrey say that it was just an infection? Shouldn’t you be better by now? Shall I go and call for her?” Ginny rambled.

“Merlin, Ginny, slow down,” Hermione groaned. “Yes, Pomfrey said that I should feel better after a week.”

“And you clearly aren’t,” Ginny commented. “You have to go back to her!”

Hermione closed her eyes for a few seconds. Yes, she needed to do something. This wasn’t normal. However, Pomfrey couldn’t do anything, and she seemed to think that it was something wrong with the tattoo.

Runes. She had dreamt something about runes. She could remember that, even though the rest was in a haze like always. Perhaps it was her subconscious trying to tell her something. It could be nothing but … she had a strong feeling like she should try to investigate it.

“Hermione? Are you listening to me?” Ginny asked.

“Yes,” Hermione said, getting out of bed, trying to push the tiredness away. “I need to… Pomfrey couldn’t do anything. I’ll research it myself first. I think I have an idea. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to St Mungo’s.”

“Good,” Ginny said, sounding relieved. “Do you need help with the research?”

Hermione was about to decline, but change her mind. “Sure. You can make sure I don’t fall asleep.”

Said and done, an hour later, they were sitting on the floor of Hermione’s room with books spread around them. There had simply been too many people in the library. The rainy weather had made sure most students stayed indoors. Thought, most of them didn’t seem to use it to study, but gossip. Hermione simply did not have time for that.

“Could you copy the runes on my tattoo?” Hermione asked Ginny. I want to know exactly what they look like. Maybe I translated them wrong at the store.”

“What importance would that have?” Ginny asked, but sat down behind Hermione.

“It’s probably nothing,” Hermione said and struggled out of her t-shirt. “But sometimes, a special combination of runes can become magical when activated. I just want to look at this from every angle before I go to St Mungo’s.”

“If you say so,” Ginny mumbled, not sounding convinced. A moment later, she handed Hermione a perfect copy of her tattoo on a piece of parchment.

Hermione pulled on her t-shirt again and sat down to work. They had to be from the Elder Furthark. The shape of them was exactly like the ones in her books that showed how runes had looked like at the south-east coast of Sweden. Although, she had never seen that combination of runes before. A lot of runes spoke about death, but not in this way. It was usually memorials about some specific person, not the dead in a general sense.

Then again, this tattoo hadn’t been created over a thousand years ago, someone had designed it for a tattoo. Maybe that person hadn’t meant anything, but had just chosen runes that looked cool?

No, somehow Hermione doubted that. The Belladonna flower was sometimes the symbol for death. It was too much of a coincidence. Someone had chosen very carefully.

“I’m so not getting runes,” Ginny groaned. “How are you able to tell a difference?”

“Well, there are different ways to read runes,” Hermione answered absentmindedly, taking another sip of her coffee to stay awake. “In the Muggle way, they are often just letters, resembling a sound, so it’s just a matter of translating it. They can also have a symbolic meaning, like for an object, and/or the name of a God. In the magical way, they can also stand for a spell. So if you can figure out which way to look at the rune, you can read what it says. These three ones I have on my back don’t make any sense if you read them as letters, and neither do they make any sense together as symbols.”

“So it is a spell?” Ginny asked, sounding horrified.

“Not quite,” Hermione answered. “These runes stand for three different spells, that’s true. But wizards have developed their own language with these runes, so even though you could use this as a spell, they can also be written to compose a sentence. It’s not a perfect art – there are too few runes to make a whole language possible – but you can usually make your meanings come across. Especially if you paint some picture to it, like here. It’s based on symbolism as well. But with a more modern reference.”

Ginny stared at her.

“What?” Hermione asked, annoyed.

“Why did you even bother to come back to Hogwarts, you could have taken your exams straight away.”

Hermione snorted. “I like school.”

Ginny shook her head. “Brilliant, but mental.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, and turned back to her papers.

“What would my name look like in runes?” Ginny asked, curious.

Hermione scribbled it down on a scrap of parchment and handed it to Ginny. “Like that, if you use the Elder Furthark from this region I’m looking at now.”

“And it doesn’t mean anything else in that symbolic language of wizards? Like ‘this woman eats pink trousers’ or whatever?” Ginny asked, trying to be funny in the middle of all the seriousness.

Hermione snorted. “No, that’s not really how it works. Some wizards have made their names into runes, but they usually have a name that means something in another language, so it’s easy to transit into symbo—”

She stopped herself, staring at the parchment with her tattoo on it. The second rune could stand for the dead, dying or death, depending on circumstances. The right grammar wasn’t necessary to get the meaning across. The third rune, which she had thought meant journey, was a bit of a stretch. Magically, it was used to send something flying. So basically, death flight.

The alarm bells in her head started to sound as loud as if she was standing in a church on a Sunday.

Flight from death. She had always shivered at those words ever since she learned some French in the summer between her second and third year of Hogwarts.

Flight from death. Vol de mort.

The first rune, which she had originally translated into “remembrance” was a rune which dealt with magic of memories. With another rune, it became the spell that caused memory loss, however, Healers had found another use for it. With other runes, it could be used to bring back memories that had been lost.

“Hermione, are you okay?” Ginny asked, sounding worried again.

Hermione shook her head slowly. “I think I should go to St Mungo’s.”

Her heartbeat felt like it thumped through her whole body as she rose. A cold fury was starting to grow in her chest. That son of a bitch. After everything that had happened, everyone she had lost, Voldemort still found a way to make her life a misery. But no more. Not one fucking bit more. She wouldn’t allow it.

Ginny tried to talk to Hermione as she followed her down to the entrance gates of Hogwarts. Hermione hardly knew if she answered any of her questions. Her focus was on getting out of Hogwarts and finding out exactly what Voldemort was doing to her. She wasn’t going straight to St Mungo’s, though. No, she doubted the Healers would know what to do. Voldemort might have been the biggest bully of them all, but he was an innovative one.

Her first stop was the one who had given her this tattoo. Perhaps he was innocent, but the more Hermione thought about it, the less she thought so. It was all too neat. She hadn’t been sure she wanted a tattoo before she got there, but the moment she saw that tattoo, she had wanted it. It had to have been some sort of charm on it. Something to convince her to take it. And she doubted she was picked at random. A lot of people got tattoos, why her? Why not Harry? Voldemort would have so loved to use Harry for whatever this was. Harry hadn’t been sure what to tattoo either. He would have been even easier to sway.

She left Ginny at the gates of Hogwarts, promising to send a message if she couldn’t come back by night. Then she left.

For the first time in weeks, Hermione didn’t feel tired. Her fury was chasing that away. She Apparated straight to the tattoo studio in Diagon Alley. There was no one in the lounge, but it didn’t surprise her. It was quite late in the afternoon, and they were probably closing for the day soon.

A woman came out from the back of the studio and smiled when she saw Hermione. “Miss Granger, how may I help you?”

“I’m looking for Mr Carson, is he here?” Hermione asked, doing her best to remain calm. Since she didn’t know who was involved yet, she would try and ask politely first. Then she would take out her anger on the ones that were responsible for this.

“Oh, I’m afraid he isn’t here. It’s his day off. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, I have to talk to him directly,” Hermione said, improvising. “When he tattooed me, we started talking about different techniques, and I promised to look some things up, and deliver them to him personally. He said I could come by his home too, if necessary, but I lost the address, so I was hoping he would be here…”

Hermione trailed off, shrugging, looking sheepish. If she could lie to Bellatrix while being tortured, and get away with it, this should be a piece of cake.

The woman hesitated. “Well, it’s not like his address is any secret. Hold on, and I’ll get it for you.”

“Oh, only if it isn’t any trouble? Thank you so much,” Hermione said, giving her best fake smile.

“I’ll be right back,” the woman said, smiling back.

Perhaps being a war heroine has its perks after all, Hermione mused when, five minutes later, she left the store with Carson’s address in her hand. Who would think ill of someone who had helped defeat Voldemort, after all?

The address was in the Muggle part of London, in a big concrete house full of flats. Carson was living on the top floor, and Hermione took the stairs. With each step, the anger she had suppressed in the studio came back. There was also a tiny bit of fear mixed into it. What was really happening to her and what did it have to do with Voldemort?

She reached the right door and pressed the doorbell. A moment later, the door opened. She only had time to see a quick flash of Carson before the door slammed shut again. Hermione, wand already in hand, immediately threw up an Anti-Apparation ward. They were hard to conjure, and wouldn’t last for long, but she hoped it would be enough.

With another spell, she made the door fly open before she stepped through. She was now completely sure that Carson was involved, and she would not let him leave until she had an answer.

Walking into a small living room, she had to block a curse that flew her way. She sent a disarming spell back; she didn’t want to hurt him yet. Carson dodged her spell and fled into the bedroom, making a table fly after him, blocking the door behind him. Hermione ruthlessly blew it into a million pieces as she followed him.

Just as she reached the doorway, she had to jump back when he came at her, waiving some sort of metal pipe. Surprise made her miss the curse he sent right afterwards, hitting her in the leg. She let out a groan of pain as the curse sliced into her leg, but it didn’t make her pause, she only got angrier. She threw three curses back in rapid succession. He managed to dodge one, but the disarming spell and stunning spell hit him straight on, making him fly back against the wall before sliding to the floor, unconscious.

Hermione summoned his wand and then cursed as she looked down her leg. It was bleeding a lot. Good thing she knew so many healing spells.

Once the bleeding had ceased, she used her wand to move Carson’s unconscious body into a kitchen chair and tied him down.

Staring at him, Hermione reflected over the situation. Her heart was beating rapidly from the adrenaline, and she was breathing heavily. More heavily than she should after such an easy fight.

Looking around, she realised they had made quite a mess of things. Had any of the neighbours heard? If they had, they could have called the police. Hermione quickly repaired the door and cast a ward that would stop any Muggle from entering. If there were wizards living here, they would be able to break in after a moment of struggle, but Hermione hoped she would be finished by then. Hopefully, no one thought to take action yet. It hadn’t been a long fight, and most people would probably wave the sounds off as something falling down and breaking.

Just to be on the safe side, she cast a Muffliato, in case the walls of the apartment were thin.

Rennervate,” Hermione said, waking Carson up.

Carson slowly looked up.

“I guess you know why I’m here,” Hermione said, her voice cold. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she realised that it was the first time she had done anything like this without Harry or Ron. It was quite a relief. They were both too reckless and impulsive for Hermione’s taste. Now she would be able to do this her own way.

Carson sighed. “I assume you have found out that your tattoo differs from those of your friends. Judging by how violent you are, I also assume you know a bit about the how.”

Hermione held her wand up. “Who are you?”

“Just a humble servant.”

Hermione’s eyes flew to his left arm. With a slice of her wand, the arm of his shirt fell off. There was no Dark Mark there.

“You are not a Death Eater?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

“Oh, I am. But it’s hard to do a tattoo on yourself.” Carson was smiling.

You made the Dark Mark?” Hermione asked in surprise.

“Why, of course. Did you really think The Dark Lord would spend his time and energy on something like that? No, he entrusted me with that honour. But he designed the Mark and created the magic behind it. He is a surprisingly good painter,” Carson mused, still smiling.

“He was,” Hermione pressed, a cold shiver of fear running down her spine.

Carson’s smile widened. “If you really think that, Miss Granger, then why are you here?”

Hermione’s grip around her wand tightened. “It won’t work. Whatever it is you have done, I will stop you.”

“It’s too late for that. It was already too late when you left my chair four weeks ago. My Lord’s magic has already started to feed off yours.”

“Why?” Hermione couldn’t stop herself from asking, horrified.

“The Dark Lord is immortal, surely you must realise this tonight. He is merely in need of a new body. You will help him with that.”

“No!” Hermione growled and pressed her wand into his chest. “You will tell me how to stop him.”

“It’s too late for that!” Carson said and started to laugh. “My Lord will be reborn, stronger than ever, thanks to your power.”

Hermione had never experienced such anger before. The fear only made it stronger. She would not let this man win. She would not let Voldemort return. Never!

Crucio,” she whispered.

Carson’s laughter turned into screams of pain instead. Hermione looked at him with disdain. Horrible man. He deserved it. Who in their right mind would ever want to bring back Voldemort?

I don’t approve of the way you treat my minions, Hermione.

The dark voice sounded as if it came just behind her. Hermione quickly spun around, thus breaking the curse over Carson. No one was there. She stood there, frozen for a moment. It must have been her imagination. She was just too tired for this.

Yes, all of a sudden, the tiredness from before overwhelmed her. She had a hard time keeping her eyes open.

There, Hermione, the dark voice whispered inside her, don’t you think it would be best if you let poor Carson go and returned to Hogwarts? Just think about how warm and cosy your bed will be there. Don’t you think that sounds a lot more relaxing than standing here, torturing some old man.

“Voldemort,” Hermione whispered.

Indeed. Took you long enough to figure it out. But I think it’s time for us to meet for real, wouldn’t you say?

“Get out of my head, you bastard,” she spat. Her head had started to ache and her body felt weak.

I plan too, in due time. But first, we have a thing we need to do. So, get back to your bed at Hogwarts.

“No I won’t!” Hermione cried. “I’ll go straight to St Mungo’s and they’ll— AH!”

It felt as if someone had pierced her head with a thousand needles. Hermione sank down to her knees, pressing her hands against her head, willing it to stop.

I can do a lot worse than that, if you don’t do as I say, Hermione, Voldemort’s voice was hard. Let Carson loose and get back to Hogwarts.

“No I won’t!” Hermione cried again. “I’ll do whatever it takes to stop you, Voldemort, and I – ugghhlee.”

The rest came out as a gurgle. The most unpleasant sensation she had ever felt gripped her body. She found herself rising from the floor without wanting too. It was as if she was a doll and someone was pulling her strings, forcing her to move. Her wand moved, making the ropes around Carson fall off.

“Thank you, my Lord,” Carson said, throwing himself on the floor, kneeling in front of her.

Hermione, tried to force her body to move as she wanted and she thought she did manage to make her left hand move a little, but Voldemort’s will was stronger.

It’s no use, Hermione, he taunted her, but his voice did sound a little strained. We are going back to Hogwarts. You’ll soon fall unconscious as it is, so we may as well be comfortable when that happens.

Hermione could feel it too. Her head was spinning, and her vision was blurred. Even though he was moving her body, she could feel that it was hard, her movement sluggish. He held up her wand again and Apparated them away.

Upon landing, she stumbled and fell, but once again, he forced her body up and towards the castle. The tiredness was paralysing, making both fighting and thinking almost impossible. Only the fear and helplessness were present. If she had the energy, she would no doubt be hysterical.

He made her walk into a secret passage behind the greenhouses that she had no idea existed. It transported her straight to the corridor where her room was located. She didn’t know how he even managed to make her open the door, but suddenly she was in her bed. Her last conscious thought was a desperate wish that Ginny would come by and find her again.

“There we go. This is much better.”

Hermione looked up and found herself inside her own bedroom. She knew it was a dream, because she was standing at the closed door instead of lying on the bed. However, it felt a lot more realistic than her earlier dreams of him. It worried her for a moment, but then she saw him on her bed, and all thought about the realistic quality of the dream disappeared.

It was the first time she saw him. He was half-lying on the bed, his hands clasped over his stomach. He looked nothing like the Voldemort she remembered. Instead, he looked quite human. Black hair framed his pale face and high cheekbones. His eyes were dark instead of red, and he was watching her behind thick dark eyelashes. He looked tired.

With an angry growl, she threw herself at him, ready to hit him, strangle him, bite him, do anything to make him go away. But she had only just made it on top of him when he rolled them around so he was lying on top of her.

“Get off me!” she screamed, trying to kick him off her.

“I plan too,” Voldemort replied, using his whole weight to keep her down. “But first, I want you to promise to stay civil. We have things to talk about.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Hermione growled. “I want you out of my dream, and out of my head!”

Voldemort sighed. “I’ve been living inside your head long enough to know that you are not this unreasonable. It’s the fear talking. Calm down, otherwise you will be acting just like Harry did when he was fifteen. And we both know what you thought about that.”

She wanted to scream some more at him, but his words struck a nerve. She had always prided herself with being reasonable and able to keep her head cool. He was right; it was the fear making her act this way. However, she didn’t want to him to know that he was right, and she didn’t feel like being very reasonable at the moment.

“I’ll stay here until you calm down,” Voldemort commented, somehow making himself even heavier.

Hermione made a last fruitless attempt to get him off her, but he stayed put. Letting out a frustrated growl, she stopped.

“Fine. Let’s talk.”

“Good girl,” he said and slowly sat up, still holding her wrists. When he was sure she wouldn’t try to start hitting him again, he let go of those as well, and moved down to the end of the bed, resting his back against one of the bed posts.

She slowly sat up, moving to lean back against the headboard of the bed. She studied him closely. It was hard to determine his age. His face was smooth and free of blemishes and wrinkles, but he didn’t look young, per se. He looked very human, though.

“What have you done with me?” she asked guardedly.

“The tattoo on your shoulder; it’s a link to my essence,” Voldemort said, looking quite pleased. “My last body died, but my essence remained here, at Hogwarts, waiting for someone with my mark to come.”

“But we destroyed your Horcruxes!” Hermione objected.

“Indeed. But did you really think that was my only back-up? Horcruxes are breakable, after all. Granted, I wasn’t actually sure this one would be able to work so effectively, but it did.”

“But how? Your soul and body was destroyed!”

Voldemort gave her a soft smile. “Yes. This is a rather complex philosophical issue, but what is it that makes you, you?”

Hermione just stared at him in disbelief. They had been fighting, and now he wanted to discuss existential philosophical questions? What was he playing at?

He sighed. “A lot of people would say that it’s your soul that is who you are, your true self. Others do not believe in souls and claims that it is your genetic makeup and environment that makes us who we are, and that there is no essence at all. Both of them are wrong. Everything we are, is what we truly are.”

Hermione continued to stare. He would have made more sense if he put on a wedding gown and declared his undying love to Harry.

“For fuck’s sake, Granger, I thought you were cleverer than this. Fine, I’ll illustrate.” He moved forward in bed and grasped her foot.

Hermione tried to get her foot back, but he kept it still. “Is this you?”

“What do you mean? It’s my foot.”

“Exactly. That’s where you aren’t able to follow my reasoning. You see your body as a possession, something you inhabit, not something you are. But what if you are every part of you? Or rather, what if every part of you is a part of your essence, but it’s only your awareness that is in one part at the time.”

Hermione stopped trying to get her foot loose and stared at him in surprise. “So if I drop a stray of hair, it’s still a part of my essence.”

“Precisely, that is how the Polyjuice Potion works. So you understand.” He let go of her foot and sat back again. “If you understand that, then it’s only a matter of making your awareness move into one of the parts you left behind. So, when I lost my body and soul, I could just jump to another part of me that wasn’t destroyed. My magic. I’d created an artefact just for this purpose. It had a link between me and the tattoo on your back with the help of rune magic. So, then I only had to wait until you got it; a witch powerful enough for me to feed off.”

Hermione felt a bit sick. “Feed off?”

He smiled broadly. “The magic in the artefact was just a small part of me. Like an embryo, if you don’t mind the metaphor. It was created for only one purpose; become bigger, so my awareness inside it could grow. To grow, it needed nutrients, in this case, magic.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Hermione asked, thinking she had finally figured out what game he was playing, and anticipating the worst.

He turned serious. “I know you are clever enough to actually understand the geniality of it. And this is just a taste of everything I can teach you, in return for your cooperation.”

“You need my cooperation? Why on earth would I help you? Won’t this kill me?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer, but she couldn’t help but ask.

“Kill you? No,” he answered to her great surprise. “I’m almost as strong as I need to be to build my own body, and since you aren’t in a coma yet, things are looking good for you.”

She was trying to comprehend what he was telling her.

“So why do you need my cooperation?” she asked, suspicious.

Voldemort moved closer to her on the bed. “Well, need may be the wrong way of putting it. I am perfectly capable of doing this on my own. But it will save me time, and save you from a lot of pain, if you cooperate. In exchange for the cooperation, I can teach you … well, anything, really.”

Hermione couldn’t stop herself; she started to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Voldemort didn’t seem amused by this. He moved on top of her and grabbed her hair in one quick motion. His other hand came up on her throat.

“Would you care to enlighten me on what you find so amusing?”

Hermione stopped laughing, but she couldn’t stop smiling. “That you actually seem to think that I would ever work with you. I helped to destroy you!”

Voldemort stared at her in silence for a few seconds, then he began smiling as well, something Hermione found very discouraging.

“Ah yes, our … history may be a bit difficult for you to overcome at first. But I’ve been inside of you long enough to know your deepest secrets and desires, Miss Granger,” Voldemort purred, easing his grip of her hair. “You are curious.”

“As far as secrets goes, that’s a pretty boring one,” she commented dryly, trying not to act scared by his proximity.

Voldemort chuckled. “I believe some of your friends would be horrified to find out the extent of your curiosity. They didn’t know how closely you really read all those Dark Arts texts when you were finding ways to destroy my Horcruxes. What do you think they would say if they find out all the nasty little spells you practiced … merely out of curiosity, of course.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Sometimes, you have to fight fire with fire and—”

He pressed his index finger against her lips. “We both know you didn’t just practice it because you thought it could help in the war. You were curious to see what they could do, and if you could do it.”

She could feel colour spreading over her cheeks. “I never hurt anyone,” she said and pushed his finger away with her free hand.

“Who said that the Dark Arts were only for hurting people? Jinxes are designed only to hurt other people, but they teach you those here at Hogwarts.” He kept his voice as a low purr, never breaking eye contact. “I’m not trying to lecture you, Granger, quite the opposite. It’s admirable that you were trying to … ‘think like the enemy’.”

Hermione had no idea where this was going, but she didn’t like it. He was looking way too smug.

“I was only doing that so we could beat you,” Hermione hissed.

“Of course. You have always been very loyal to your friends. When you have had any.”

Hermione’s first impulse was to smack him, but she knew he was just trying to provoke her. Thus, she kept still.

“At least I’ve had friends,” she retorted.

He just smiled. “I was just wondering about how different your life would have been if you hadn’t become friends with Potter. What if you had been born just twenty days earlier and thus ended up in the year before Potter. How different would your life be?”

She had wondered that herself many times, and she didn’t like it. “There is no use thinking about that. I was born on the nineteenth and that’s all that matters.”

“I beg to differ, it can tell you a great deal about yourself if you think about how things could have been different if certain environmental aspects of your life changed. Why would you have fought in the war if you hadn’t been friends with Potter?”

“I’m still a Muggleborn, of course I would have fought against people trying to kill me just because of who my parents are,” Hermione argued.

“Or would you have been one of the few Muggleborn Death Eaters?”

“There are no Muggleborn Death Eaters!”

Voldemort arched his eyebrows. “I do believe I know a bit more about the Death Eaters than you do, Miss Granger.”

Her eyes widened in shock. “Why on earth would a Muggleborn become a Death Eater?”

“There are many reasons. Power, fear, peer pressure … curiosity. Or they just hated Muggles and felt like wizards should be allowed to go about life the way they chose. Not having to hide their powers or be controlled by the Statute of Secrecy. They could even make a campaign to change their legal statutes and stop the outright abuse of— oh, hang on, that sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it?”

Hermione clenched her fists. “The slavery of House-Elves is not one bit similar to wizards having to hide their magic from Muggles!”

“Isn’t it?” Voldemort challenged her.

“No,” she just said, refusing to argue with him. “When are you going to let go of my hair?”

His eyes finally shifted away from hers to look at her hair instead. His hand was still in it, resting at the back of her skull. “Why should I let go of it? I like your hair.”

“If you think you can mock my hair, I’ll have to disappoint you; I’ve already heard it all,” Hermione said, becoming even more annoyed with him.

His looked back into her eyes again. “I’m not mocking you, I actually do like it. It suits you.”

She just stared at him, trying to figure out what his game was once again. He was like a closed book, and against her will, she was curious to find out what he really was about.

“You are not used to compliments,” he commented, his hand finally leaving her hair, but he continued to sit close to her.

Hermione fought the urge to move back. “I get compliments all the time.”

“Not about your looks.”

“There are more important things in life than looks.”

“Which is something only a person who think she’s ugly would say.”

She stared at him in disbelief. “You are one to talk, Mr Bad Nose Job.”

He laughed. “You didn’t seem too concerned about that last night.”

“What are you—” Hermione stopped herself, memories of the dream from the night before returning to her in full force. She blushed furiously and tried to move back from him, but he kept her still. “That was you?”

“Oh yes, I’ve been in every one of your dreams for the past few weeks. However, last night was by far the most exciting. Who would ever have expected that Hermione Granger was so … selfish?”

She couldn’t remember the last time her face was this red with mortification. At the same time, she was angry. Very angry. “You tricked me! You used me!”

He arched an eyebrow, seemingly unimpressed. “I’m quite sure it was the other way around, dear. You used me for your own pleasure, and when you didn’t wish to return the favour, I didn’t say a word.”

“So now you want my gratefulness?” Hermione spat, getting out of the bed, just to get away from him. “And I did not use you. I didn’t force your hand down my knickers!”

“Why are you so upset, then?” he asked, rising from the bed as well. “We were just experiencing some adult fun. You liked it.”

“You tricked me! I would never have done it if I’d known it was you.”

“Are you sure?” he asked softly.

Hermione stood still and stared at him. “Are you bloody insane?”

“I’m aware that my history might be a bit hard to overlook—”

Might?” Hermione cried.

He held up his hand, silencing her. “—but I know what you want in a man. You want someone who is your intellectual match, someone who challenges your way of thinking. Someone who is passionate and well-read. You even prefer tall, dark haired men even though that isn’t a deal breaker. And, well…” He trailed off with a sweeping gesture over himself, smiling.

“My ideal of a partner is not a lunatic, mass-murdering, power-hungry psychopath,” Hermione growled, starting to think this was just some bizarre dream after all.

“I’m sure I can make you forget about that for a while,” Voldemort purred seductively.

She pressed a hand against her face, rubbing her eyes. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Why on earth was Lord Voldemort trying to seduce her to begin with? It didn’t make sense.

No. It didn’t make sense. She was missing something. Voldemort would never do anything without gaining something. She looked up again, frowning. Why did he want to sleep with her? And why didn’t he just force her to do it?

“We are inside your mind, Hermione,” Voldemort said, startling her. “I can hear what you think. And I’m sure it will relieve you to hear that it would be very hard for me to harm you while we are both inside your mind like this. I can possess your body, which I did before, but here, your mind is working in your advantage. You control the environment. I can manipulate it, and if you force me, I’ll take control over it. But that would give you permanent mental problems. Perhaps even kill you. That’s why I’m taking the easy way, for both of us.”

“And what exactly is the easy way?”

“How is new life usually created?”

“Oh.” Hermione slowly sank down against the wall and onto the floor.

Voldemort sighed and sat down on the bed again, looking at her.

“I’m going to get pregnant?” Hermione whispered, horrified.

“Salazar, no,” Voldemort responded, scoffing. “Do you think I want to live inside your womb for nine months? No, I just need the magic that starts the new life. I’ll become flesh only moments afterwards. That’s why I’ve been feeding of your magic; so I’ll have the energy to do it. All I need now is the spark.”

It took a bit longer than Hermione cared to admit to actually understand what he was saying. Once it had sunk in, her mind started to spin on a plan, but at once, she remembered that he could hear her thoughts, and so she began thinking about a song instead. Her mind could work in the background.

Soft music began to play in the room. Voldemort laughed.

“You know, I can still find your thoughts, if I look. I’m a master at Legilimency, and everything you know about Occlumency is things you have read in a book, which hardly counts as practice.”

“One of the ways to stop someone is by making them focus on something else,” Hermione said, remembering the books advice clearly.

“True, but how are you planning on keeping my focus?” he challenged her.

Nervous, but determined, she rose from the floor and walked over to him. Her hands were shaking slightly as she stopped in front of him, looking down at him.

“You are going to have to work very hard if you are going to convince me to have sex with you.”

His eyes gleamed. “Is that so?”

She nodded, the music around them growing a bit higher. It was the same classical music her parents used to play in the waiting room of their dentist practice. It made Hermione feel a bit safer.

Voldemort gripped her hands and moved back in the bed, making her follow.

“Do you remember the dream you have about killing Bella?” he asked, letting go of her hands once she was on the bed again.

“Yes,” Hermione said, the memory surfacing briefly in her mind, interrupting the music for just a second.

“Do you remember the wonderful feeling you got then?”

She just nodded.

“That’s what darkness feels like,” Voldemort said softly. “Back then, I thought it was new for you, but as I travelled through your memories, I saw some very interesting things.”

Hermione couldn’t even pretend she was surprised he had gone through her memories. “Like what?”

“I stumbled across everything that happened your fifth year. You hated that Umbridge quite a lot … oh, revenge is sweet, isn’t it, Hermione? You knew exactly what you were doing, leading her out to that forest, didn’t you? You know what Centaurs can do to humans when provoked, and you knew Umbridge wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut.” He sat up so fast Hermione didn’t have time to withdraw. He grabbed her hair again, holding her face close to his. The air around them was sparkling with energy again.

“I found that very interesting, Hermione. I recognised that feeling you had when the Centaurs carried Umbridge off, so sweet, so warm, and oh so dark. Making your heart race faster.” He pressed his other hand against her chest, between her breasts. “Remember that feeling, Hermione. Experience it again for me.”

He must have used some sort of Legilimency, because Hermione could never remember reliving a thing so clearly before. She did remember. The taste of retribution in her mouth, her want to laugh out loud when Umbridge had fallen into her trap. Threatening to torture Harry; actually torturing him in detention and sending the Dementors after him; having him relive the memory of his parents screams. And worst of all; destroying their education in a subject they so desperately needed! No, Hermione could never forgive her for any of that. Umbridge deserved everything that happened to her in that forest.

She didn’t know how it started, but when she realised her lips were pressed against Voldemort’s, their tongues struggling for domination, they had already been at it for quite some time. Her hands were in his hair, scratching his scalp, pressing him closer to her. One of his hands were still gripping her hair, but the other one had travelled to her breast, stroking it, hard. When had he got her shirt and bra off?

Voldemort must have felt her tensing, because he withdrew his tongue from her mouth, breathing hard. “Let yourself be devoured, Hermione. Let the darkness out. It’s screaming at you to let it run free, like it did back then, like it did earlier with you were punishing Carson. You’ll feel so much better.”

“You talk too bloody much,” Hermione growled and attacked his mouth with hers, putting her whole weight behind it so he fell back on the bed, with her on top of him.

She had to admit that doing this didn’t feel as bad as it should. Maybe it was the darkness he had reminded her off that was just taking control, but she didn’t work that hard to suppress it as she usually did. She knew it wasn’t right to enjoy the pains of her enemies so much. She knew she was overly cruel in her vengeances, but somehow, she just didn’t seem to be able to stop it.

Her hands moved over his chest, and by just willing it, his clothes disappeared. He let out a satisfied moan, which turned into a groan of pain when she scratched her nails over his nipples. His hands came up to her wrists, forcing her hands away, but she broke free and bit his lower lip in warning. That made him growl and instead, he grabbed her hips. Before she had time to react, he had rolled them over.

Their kiss broke, and she opened her eyes, glaring at him. He was panting as much as she was, and his eyes were burning in anger and lust.

“By Salazar, I never expected you to be this much of a hellcat,” he growled and grabbed her hair again, holding her head down against the mattress.

She answered by grabbing his erect cock and squeezed it in warning. His eyes flickered in surprise, but his grip on her hair loosened.

“I could squeeze and pull,” she warned him. “So unless you want this to stop now, you’ll do as I say.”

Voldemort regarded her for a moment, several emotions flickering in his eyes, but the lust was the most predominant. His cock remained hard as rock in her hand. His hand slowly left her hair again.

“Roll over,” she ordered him coldly.

He arched an eyebrow, looking down at where she was holding him.

“I will follow the motion,” she promised. “As long as you don’t try anything.”

Voldemort snorted, but slowly rolled onto his back again. Hermione straddled him. Somehow, even she was now completely naked. Having sex in a dream was practical.

Slowly, she started to stroke his cock against her sex. “Have you always had such a big cock or is it just wishful thinking?”

He smiled. “It’s just a bit above average, Hermione. I shudder to imagine what you are comparing it too.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him, but it didn’t matter much. She was filled with a hunger that nothing but sex would fill. Using her hand, she guided his cock into her. Just getting the head in was hard. Everything on her was small except for her hair. Her breasts and hips were small enough that she would have been able to pass as a boy if she wore the right clothes. And apparently, her cunt was also small. Or, well, tight. Very tight. She winced at the stretching sensation, but kept going slowly. She was aroused enough for it to be more pleasurable than painful. She only had to get used to his girth.

Voldemort’s eyes were closed, his face twisted in intense concentration. His hands were gripping her thighs. It surprised her to see him show restraint. Who would have thought the Dark Lord was able to be considerate in bed?

A smiled formed on his lips. “You think too much, Granger. Just relax and enjoy.”

Closing her own eyes, she did. She let gravity pull her down over his length and could feel her cunt throb in pleasure when he was completely inside her. Oh, great Merlin, that was good. As the stretching sensation lessened, she began to rock back and forth, slowly, trying to find her g-spot.

His hands came up over her hips, stroking the sides of her body. When he reached the sides of her breasts, he started to trace small circles over them with his thumbs. Hermione held up her arms, gripping her hair to allow him access. Her nipples stood out, hard as steel, waiting for his attention.

She began speeding up, moving up and down as well as rocking, managing to find her g-spot with every stroke. She moaned, and his hands came up to her head and back, pushing her down against him. Their lips met in a hard kiss, his tongue forcing its way inside her mouth, tasting her, drinking in her cries of pleasure.

She was hardly aware of when it happened, but all of a sudden, she was on her back, her legs around his waist as he pushed into her harder and faster. His left arm was around her back, and she couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this close to another person. As his mouth started to trail kisses all over her face, she got her hand up to his hair, feeling the soft texture of it between her fingers. She turned her head and made him start kissing her throat instead. She loved to be touched on her throat and neck when she was aroused. It sent shivers right down to her toes.

“You taste divine, Hermione,” he breathed into her ear, biting her lobe. “I’m almost sad to leave your cosy mind.”

Hermione was hardly listening. Her ears were buzzing, the orgasm approaching rapidly. His pubic bone was hitting her clit with every stroke.

“I can see no other choice than us having to continue this once I have my own body again. Would you like that?”

“Yes,” Hermione hissed, not sure what she was agreeing too, and not caring. Her legs held him tighter as her whole clitoris swelled inside her body, catching his every stroke.

“Good girl,” he purred, his mouth once again returning to hers, kissing her.

Hermione began to sob at the intense pleasure rushing through her body. It felt like a tidal wave capturing and dragging her under. She didn’t breath, and could not see the reason to do so either. Fireworks were going off behind her closed eyelids, and she gripped his hair tighter, forcing a groan out of Voldemort as well.

Once the climax reached its peak, Hermione blacked out.

SS


“—not that I really think he has anything to say in the matter, it’s my underwear, after all. It’s not like anyone else will see them, and when he does see them, it’s not like they stay on that long anyway, so I don’t know why he is so weird about it. Maybe he is jealous he doesn’t get to wear them.” Ginny’s voice drifted into Hermione’s ears slowly, at first not making any sense. Underwear? Sexy?

Hermione tried to ask what was going on, but all that came out was a strangled cough.

“Hermione?” A hand came up on hers. “Hermione, are you awake?”

Since when did she have such a trouble opening her eyes? She coughed again and finally, her eyes opened. The first thing she saw was Ginny’s face. She was leaning over Hermione, her brown eyes wide. The moment Hermione managed to focus on her, Ginny spun around.

“Healer Lokasenna, Hermione is awake!” she cried, and turned back to Hermione, gripping her hand again. “How are you feeling? Can you talk?”

Hermione opened her mouth, but it felt too dry to speak. Like she had been sleeping for a long time.

Ginny seemed to sense her need, because she grabbed a glass from a table and helped Hermione drink a little.

“Where am I?” Hermione asked, her voice sounding raw.

“You are at St. Mungos,” Ginny said, her eyes wet. “Merlin, I’ve been so worried! You have been in a coma for almost two weeks.”

“T-two weeks?” Hermione asked, her mind starting to process the information, slowly. “Why?”

Before Ginny had time to answer, a Healer dressed in a green robe came in. He looked strangely familiar, but Hermione couldn’t place him.

“Miss Granger,” his voice was deep and pleasant. “How are you feeling?”

He came to her other side and started to run diagnostic spells on her.

“Confused,” Hermione answered, honest. “What happened?”

“We were hoping you could tell us that. What’s the last thing you remember?”

Hermione tried to recall. “I was … talking to someone. I think.”

“I found you in your room,” Ginny said, still holding her hand tightly. “You said you were going to St. Mungos, but the next morning, I went back to your room, and there you were, barely breathing on your bed. I was so scared!”

“Miss Weasley, perhaps it would be best if you let me examine Miss Granger in peace for a moment,” the Healer said, a look of concern on his handsome face.

“Is something wrong?” Ginny asked, alarmed.

“No, it’s just procedure,” the Healer said, soothingly. “I assure you, your friend is in the best hands.”

Hermione’s eyes fell down to his hands. Sensual, long-fingered hands. That could grip your hair tight.

“Oh, of course,” Ginny said, taking a deep breath. “I’ll be right outside, Hermione.”

She squeezed her hand one last time and left the room. The Healer closed the door behind her with a swish of his wand. A wand that was longer than wands usually were. Bigger.

“Have you always had such a big cock or is it just wishful thinking?” The words left her mouth before she had time to think about it. When she realised what she had said, she flew into seating position, her hand searching her body for her wand.

Voldemort just chuckled. “It’s not here, Hermione. Standard procedure. You understand.”

“How did you get here?” Hermione gasped, her head feeling dizzy for sitting up too fast. But she didn’t dare sit back. Who knew what Voldemort had planned for her?

Voldemort sat down on the visitors chair and leaned back. “Well, I told you how I would get my body back. As you can see, it worked. You were in a coma by the time I was aware of my surroundings. It was night by then, so I merely slinked out of the castle. When I heard you had been transferred here, I came.”

“Why? And how can you be a Healer?” Hermione slowly leaned back in bed. He didn’t appear as if he was about to kill him.

“You don’t think I’m competent enough to be a Healer?” Voldemort smiled. “Lucky for me, the person in charge of this ward thought so. Then again, he was quite desperate for some temporary help when half the staff got sick with a highly contagious disease. They will live, but have to be in quarantine for a few months.”

“You didn’t say why you bothered to go through with all of that,” Hermione noted, suspicious.

“I thought that was obvious,” he said. “I’m here for you, of course.”

She tensed again. “So you are going to kill me?”

“Not at all. You helped me. I’m here to reward you.”

She stared at him, suspicious. “Why?”

“I keep my promises, Granger.” He leaned forward, grasping her hand. “You won’t be able to tell anyone about our little dream adventure together. No one knows I’m back, and if everything goes according to plan, no one will. No one but you, if you choose to.”

“Choose to?” She frowned.

He nodded. “I can wipe your memory clean of all of this. Everyone will think you were in a coma from a magical infection gone bad. Or, you can swear never to reveal my identity and I’ll teach you whatever you wish to know.”

“And if I want to know how to get rid of you once and for all?” she asked.

He grinned. “Well … then your best option is probably to stick around. Who knows, maybe I will let something slip.”

Hermione studied him. He thought she wouldn’t say anything. He hadn’t realised what she had figured out – what had made her go through with having sex with him. She wouldn’t have been able to beat him as long as he was in her mind, but here, she could. Rune magic was almost impossible to break during the time it was created, but once it was finished, there were several ways. Since he had used her magic, she was deemed the caster of the spell. That meant he would always be tied to her. She was sure Voldemort knew it and that’s why he wanted to keep her close. But that didn’t matter. With the right magical runes, she would be able to destroy him. It would take time, but she could do it. And if she were to pick up a trick or two up along the way, what harm could it do?

“Fine,” she finally replied. “What do we do now?”

His grin broadened. He thought he had won her over. Well, she would show him that it wasn’t that easy to best Hermione Jean Granger. Boy, was he in for a surprise.